The term chute generally describes a swift fall of water, caused either by a steep descent in a riverbed or a sudden narrowing of a channel in a river or strait. Derived from both the French chute and the British shoot, this word is multifarious: it is also used to describe the trough of a canal lock as well as any sloping channel or passage for the conveyance of water or objects floating in water, such as logs or rafts. Some U.S. game laws require the erection and maintenance of chutes for the passage of fish over dams. In a slightly different use of the term, whitewater river rafters and kayakers look for what is known as an island chute, the point at which the river’s gradient steepens and the water is funneled around an island into a fast and very narrow channel. In Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain explains how “once, in one of these lovely island chutes, we found our course completely bridged by a great fallen tree. This will serve to show how narrow some of the chutes were. The passengers had an hour’s recreation in a virgin wilderness while the boat-hands chopped the bridge away; for there was no such thing as turning back, you comprehend.”

Lan Samantha Chang